Two teams are battling it out for the Stanley Cup on catfish-laden ice. Unfortunately, the Tampa Bay Lightning are not one of those two teams. In order to fill the void for Lightning fans, Raw Charge is breaking down the past season team by team to see who helped and who hurt the season.
The Carolina Hurricanes
December 4, 2016 - Tampa 0, Carolina 1, OT
Preview by @loserpoints: “The Lightning won via shootout last night over the Washington Capitals. The first great thing about that win is that it was a win, which the Lightning needed very much. The second great thing about that win is that it was just the sort of win that allows everyone to continue to push the narrative they favored going into the game.”
We didn’t get two in a row. We were so young and innocent then.
Recap by @GeoFitz4: “The Lightning have finished an absolutely brutal stretch of the schedule. They have played a stretch of 14 games in 25 days since the last time they had more than one day off between games. That included two back to backs. In that stretch, the team has gone 7-6-1. They had a solid winning streak and a horrid losing streak during that stretch. To come out of such a grueling part of the season with more points than games isn’t the worst thing in the world. The Lightning currently sit in third place in the division.”
December 31, 2016 - Tampa 3, Carolina 1
Preview by @iactium: “The Lightning’s inability to score first is becoming meme-like. The Toronto game marked the 24th time that has occurred. The Lightning have now allowed the first goal for 65% of the season so far. 65%! We’ve only played 37 games! The Bolts are 6-15-3 when they allow the first goal. That is just putrid. Meanwhile, when we do manage to score first we sport a sterling 10-2-1 record. We need to score first, Bolts. It’s great to know we can come back from multi-goal deficits, but we’re running out of time to keep this shtick up.”
Recap by @clarkjbrooks: “It might be something of a stretch to say the Lightning are ‘back’ (however you choose to define that), at least as long as key contributors shuffle in and out of the lineup with varying degrees of injury. But to their credit, the measures they’re taking to keep their heads above water until they get some of those players back on a consistent basis are yielding positive results. 19,092 were on hand for the team’s 84th consecutive sellout at Amalie Arena and witnessed a victory to cap off 2016.”
March 1, 2017 - Tampa 4, Carolina 3, OT
Preview by @iactium: “The Lightning have slowly been improving as the season has progressed, though it hasn’t been anything groundbreaking. Tampa Bay finally reached a goal differential of ‘0’, something that has been in the negative in since December. The Bolts have scored and allowed 171 goals (both are 16th) while the special teams continue to climb the rankings. The power-play currently stands at 22.7% (2nd) while the penalty kill is operating at 80.9% (16th). It should be noted that the penalty kill has not improved demonstrably, but it has remained steady for the past few weeks which is something the Lightning have not had for months.”
Recap by @clarkjbrooks: “In terms of artistic merit, not only was this one not an oil painting, this wasn’t even a toddler’s poorly rendered finger-paint portrait of a family pet that would be worthy of displaying on the fridge door. Regardless, the post-2017 trade deadline version of the Tampa Bay Lightning came away with a win.”
View from the other bench:
Jamie Kellner of Canes Country weighed in on the series.
Allow me to begin with hearty thanks for sending Ben Bishop (and his 7-1-1 record, 1.76 GAA, .945 save percentage and two shutouts in nine career games against the Canes) the hell out of the Eastern Conference.
From the Canes' perspective the 2016-17 series against the Lightning was mostly about goaltending, as it usually is, either a lack thereof from our team and/or Vezina-caliber performances from yours. The Canes turned the tables in Raleigh on Dec. 4 when Phil Di Giuseppe's overtime game-winner broke the seal on a shutout battle between Cam Ward (wait what?) and Ben Bishop. Which was nice.
The last eight seconds were the only redeeming quality of a 3-1 loss in Tampa on New Years Eve. After Eddie Lack sustained his second concussion of the season (in a pre-game soccer warmup, I swear you couldn't make this up), equipment manager and all-around good guy Jorge Alves was signed to an emergency contract to back up Ward. After a late stoppage, head coach Bill Peters saw an opportunity, called Alves into action and he became one of the biggest feel-good stories of the NHL season.
Still not enough goalie drama? On Mar. 1, heading into the third period with a 2-1 lead, Lack gave up two goals (the Canes would come back with one to tie) then a Victor Hedman game-winner 46 seconds into overtime. His 4 goals against in 16 shots spurred Peters' now-infamous “Make a F***ing Save” speech which probably doesn't bode well for the affable Swede's future in Raleigh.
Heading into 2017-18, it's time to get even. We've now acquired a giant goalie of our own. Prepare for battle, Bolts!
(~Checks NHL stats, notices Scott Darling's record vs. TBL is 0-1-1 with an .847 save percentage and 4.34 GAA. Oh FFS.)
Brian Boyle (1), Jonathan Drouin (1), Alex Killorn (1), Victor Hedman (2), Tyler Johnson (1), Nikita Kucherov (1)
Nikita Kucherov (4) Victor Hedman (1) Ondrej Palat (3), Matthew Peca (1), Victor Hedman (1), Jake Dotchin (1), Tyler Johnson (2), Jason Garrison (1)
December 4: Ben Bishop .970 SV% in an OT loss
December 31: Andrei Vasilevskiy .960 SV%
March 1: Andrei Vasilevskiy .903 SV%
Did Carolina help or hurt the Lightning’s season?
Carolina helped the Bolts’ season. On Friday, November 25, the Bolts started the first of their four-game slides. It was stopped by a win in Washington, against all odds, on December 3. Ben Bishop, playing out of his mind, won that one with a .970 SV% in a 2-1 shootout.
The very next night, the boys played in Carolina. Bishop was tapped for net again (I recall wondering why), but he pitched a shutout in regulation — then lost, 1-0 in overtime. This was the first of three losses in a row, for a dismal stretch that resulted in a 6-6-3 December.
Tampa’s series against Carolina was an interesting litmus test. They lost the first game due to a serious lack of firepower. The second and third games were won due to bad goaltending — but not from Tampa Bay. Carolina outshot them 27 to 25 on December 31, and 31 to 16 on March 1. Vasy was supported by three goals in the first win, two coming from the power play. And he was supported by three even-strength goals on March 1, which came on 16 shots — thank god Eddie Lack wasn’t playing in Nashville.
So here’s the exchange that Jamie was referring to above, via the Raleigh News and Observer. It happened immediately after the March 1 game against the Bolts, the 4-3 OT victory. My notes on that game are literally, “W, 4-3 OT, Vasilevskiy, shots for 16, shots against 31 — wait, what? How?!” The answer is, they Lack-ed a few saves:
“Well, you’ve got to push,” Peters said. “One guy has played 10 games. Eddie has played 10 games and was poor in his last outing, let’s not kid ourselves, right? There were 16 shots, four went in. Not good enough. You look at his numbers in the league, they’re not good enough.
“So I don’t think it’s much of a competition. We’ve got a guy who’s well ahead of the other guy. That’s what I see and the numbers back that up.
“So when he gets in another game, you better play. You better earn some respect from your teammates. Your teammates are out there working their bag off. You better get some saves and a timely save at the right time wouldn’t hurt.”
Peters ended the media scrum by glancing down the hallway, in the direction of Lack’s locker stall, and saying, “Make a save.” There was another word in there but you get the idea: the coach was not happy with the player.
Sadly, the video does not have this last part.